This Designer's "More is More" Aesthetic is What Pattern Queen Dreams Are Made Of
A frenzy of color, more patterns than you've ever seen on one piece of fabric, and a love of unique clothing construction — these are just a few of the elements that stand out about the work of today's crushworthy creative, fashion designer Autumn Adeigbo. If you're not yet familiar with her collections, get ready to start seeing her prints, patterns, and outrageous color palette everywhere. From Rent the Runway to Anthropologie, her stylish pieces are popping up all over the place, and we are *here* for it.
Anjelika Temple here, Co-Founder and Chief Creative Officer of Brit + Co, and self-proclaimed pattern queen. Truth is, my love of patterns doesn't hold a candle to the wildly talented designer whose story I'm about to share. But first, a little recent history about how Brit connected with Autumn!
Autumn came into the Brit + Co family through a totally serendipitous series of events. Brit had just kicked off her #GiveItAWeek challenge (an insane endeavor involving our ambitious founder taking on 52 New Year's resolutions instead of just one), and was embarking on a week of power clashing, pattern mixing, and getting out of her style comfort zone. I lent her all sorts of patterned clothes, and she started sharing her outfits on Instagram and mentioned an upcoming trip to NY to appear on The Today Show. A designer reached out to her and offered to bring her a bunch of patterntastic outfit options to wear on the show — Brit immediately fell for Autumn and her gorgeous collection, and voila, a deep creative connection was made.
Now almost two years later, Autumn is crushing the game and we are most definitely crushing on her. Read on to learn all about this prolific designer in this edition of Creative Crushin'.
ANJELIKA TEMPLE: First things first, ground us in what grounds you.
AUTUMN ADEIGBO: I was born in upstate New York where I lived until age 10, and spent my teenage years in the Midwest, specifically in South Bend, Indiana, and Champaign, Illinois. I went to college in Atlanta at Spelman where I earned a degree in economics, which gave me the foundation for the business confidence that I have today. I also got a second degree in fashion design from Parsons, which laid the foundation of my fashion industry career. When I was a young girl, my mom used to sew the dresses I wore, which created my love of one-of-a-kind fashion. She instilled an incredible work ethic in me after seeing her put herself through medical school as a single mom with two kids, working two jobs. She started medical school at age 35 — fulfilling her lifelong dream.
AT: Wow. That is seriously impressive! Was it your lifelong dream to be a fashion designer?
AA: When I was younger, I wanted to be a lawyer or veterinarian because I didn't think fashion design was an option for me. I didn't know any fashion designers, and had no idea how to follow that path. But I came across the brand DKNY when Donna Karan was starting out. I thought, "if Donna Karan can do it, so can I." I looked up where she went to school and applied to Parsons while completing my undergrad at Spelman. My biggest self-discovery has been healing from trauma as well as learning about my self-love and self-worth outside of professional success, looks, money, partnership, or social status.
AT: What types of day jobs did you have before you were able to focus fully on your own business?
AA: I had a long history working in hospitality, from age 16 where my first job was working in a popular coffee shop in the mall in my hometown. After finishing Parsons, throughout my career ascension, I often got second jobs hostessing in various restaurants, and eventually landed a coveted VIP reservations job in a sort of private club, which is where I found my very first angel investor. I even had a job working in construction as an expediter getting permits from the department of buildings. I found my next angel investor at that job.
I also have a lot of experience in the fashion industry. I was a celebrity fashion stylist intern, assistant and associate for eight years — dressing Julianne Moore, Jennifer Lopez, Christina Aguilera, Jennifer Connelly, Salma Hayek and Gwen Stefani. I was hired from my first internship at Betsey Johnson after meeting the designer on the street. I worked for designers Anna Sui and Paul Smith, and freelanced at W magazine as a fashion assistant.
AT: What gave you the confidence and drive to take the leap and start your own line?
AA: While I loved fashion styling, I needed to go deeper into the creative process. I had just come back from my first trip to Paris and, after a fateful meeting with a therapist, I decided to just go for it. That's what gave me the confidence to start — the combination of needing more in my career and a single therapy session.
True, as a stylist, I was dressing famous women for the Oscars, David Letterman, Saturday Night Live and the like, but I wanted more. So I decided to return to my design roots and start a collection. I had no money so I got a second job hostessing evenings at NYC hotspots like STK restaurant in the Meatpacking District when it first opened. I saved up enough money to make seven dresses, which I wore at night pitching celebrities and editors as I sat them at their tables to dine. My concept was simple: for every dress, 5% of sales went to women in Africa for micro-credit loans. Some of the editors loved this concept and the designs and my brand was born. What drives me to keep going is the vision I have for the brand and the response from people who see the product.
AT: You've developed a very distinct visual style, one that's rich with color, story, and pattern — what inspires your work?
AA: Even as a child, the dresses my mom made for me were all prints. I get that from her; Nigerian and West African fashion is known for vibrant colors and prints. I always wanted to connect women across cultures with my products. I myself am a mix of my Nigerian heritage with first generation American roots. That's where my desire to bring those design components together comes from, as well as connecting women across cultures.
AT: Talk to us about your aesthetic and how it continues to evolve.
AA: I'm a 'more is more' kind of girl and bring that aesthetic into all I do. I am still perfecting my overall aesthetic as the brand grows. I think my real talent comes from working with color and prints and fabrics that tell a story. I'm still learning who my customer is and figuring out how to dress her better every season, seeing what she likes and doesn't like, and also figuring out how we can give back to women in impactful ways.
Currently, the collection is sewn in the USA in women-owned production facilities, a percentage is hand-beaded by female collectives in Africa and India who are paid fair-trade wages, and part of our DTC revenue stream is sold via a community of entrepreneurial women whom we pay (or the nonprofit of their choice) a percentage of sales. We donate 1% of our wholesale sales to Project Glimmer serving at risk (foster care) teenage girls in the United States by letting them know that their community cares.
AT: What do you love most about making things and putting them into the world?
AA: I love the process of manifestation and the way women tell me they feel in the product. It makes them happy and confident, and I like to see that. I love the way people on the street respond to the product. It brightens their day. I'm inspired by all my customers and am always thinking of ways to make life more joyful for them. I also love learning about business.
Favorite Quote: "The bird sitting on the tree is never afraid of the branch breaking. Her trust is not in the branch, but in her wings.."
Trivia About You: I can draft and read astrological birth charts. I can often guess people's signs.
Go-to Karaoke Song: I don't like karaoke. (I'm fun I swear!)
Favorite Material: Beautiful textured jacquard or brocade with lurex, a full and soft cotton with body is always easy to wear, drape and design with too. It's also natural so better for environmental breakdown over time.
Late Night Snack: Grilled cheese and french fries from the 24-hour diner in my neighborhood — awful! (Editor's note: SAME! Not awful ;) )Currently Reading: My Year of Rest and Relaxation and Bad Blood: The Elizabeth Holmes Story
AT: What does your support system look like? How does your community help you thrive?
AA: My biggest support system is my spiritual connection. I have way too many mentors to name. I have probably over 100. I also just got a puppy and I'm obsessed with her!
AT: On that note, who are some other badass fashion babes our readers should know about?
AA: Olivia Palermo; Eva Chen, Director of Fashion Partnerships at Instagram; Tiffany Battle; Rosie Assouline, Tory Burch (I'm one of her fellows); Leandra Cohen; Alison Lou; Christine Barberich, Founder of Refinery29. Old School Shala Monroque.
AT: Considering that you wear ALL the hats — CEO, designer, creative director, and more — burnout must be real. How do you find balance in your life?
AA: I take a break! I step away completely and set an intention or prayer. Sometimes letting go for a while is the best thing you can do.
AT: And now a classic: If you could give younger you a piece of advice, what would it be?
AA: Don't get any tattoos. Tattoos don't work for me, personally. I often found myself getting them when I was bored. The commitment aspect is too much. We change so much over time and may not resonate with a tattoo in 10 years time.
AT: Finally, tell us what's new for Autumn Adeigbo at the moment.
AA: We just launched headbands at Anthropologie as an extension of the Autumn Adeigbo brand: artful contemporary clothing that connects women across cultures. I designed hair accessories in my bedroom late one night out of upcycled fabric and beads to style my Spring 2020 lookbook. I honestly had no idea they would ever be sold, let alone launch in Tory Burch's annual seedbox or at Anthropologie. So far, the women love them.
Follow all things Autumn over on Instagram
(Photography courtesy of Autumn Adeigbo and by Dina Kantor)